Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

Stacy Holman Jones, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Janna Jones, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Laurel Graham, Ph.D.

Keywords

buying, care, communication, minority, class

Abstract

Looking Good and Taking Care: Consumer Culture, Identity, and Poor, Minority, Urban Tweens is an ethnographic examination of how poor, minority, urban tweens (age 7-14) use consumer culture to create and perform their personal and social identities. Although portrayed in mass media as selfish and hedonistic, this work finds tweens creating profoundly social, giving, and caring identities and relationships through consumption. Their use of consumer culture is also a form of political resistance that subverts their place in the age, class, and race hierarchy. These tweens use “looking good” (attention to grooming, style, and behaving respectably), and not name brand goods, to show they have respect for themselves, that their families care about them, and that, by extension, society in general should care for and about them. Far from seeking status through consuming, the tweens largely seek belonging and care. They also utilize both consumption and denial of their consumer desires to show care for their families. Furthermore, the tweens use consumer culture to enact resistance against the most tangible form of social control in their lives—school—by employing products and consumer knowledge to subvert the rules of uniforms and structured school time.

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